Charlie Higson: Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who revival made fantasy drama popular again

The writer behind ITV's upcoming Jekyll & Hyde believes NuWho reawakened Brits' appetite for other-worldly shows

Modern fantasy series owe a great debt to Russell T Davies’ successful Doctor Who revival, according to writer Charlie Higson. 

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The young Bond author and Fast Show alumnus has penned most of the scripts for ITV’s upcoming drama starring Tom Bateman, Richard E Grant and Natalie Gumede, and believes Davies’ NuWho has created a demand for such shows.

“Fantasy series, that’s what I loved”, Higson told an audience at Radio Times Festival following an exclusive screening of the first episode of Jekyll & Hyde, which is due to air on ITV this autumn.

“I wanted TV that was going to take me to strange places. That kind of disappeared in the 70s. British drama became very Ken Loach kitchen sink, all realism, and it struggled to come back.

“I made two series of Randall and Hopkirk deceased at the turn of the Millennium which, obviously, was based on one of those shows. I was really wanting to bring back this whole non-realistic approach, and I definitely felt that people weren’t really ready for it.

“So I was really pleased when Russell T Davies brought Doctor Who back so well, when he did. Because he managed to pull off that thing of doing a big show, but he made it popular as well by rooting it in very strong drama, particularly a family drama with Rose’s family.”

“And he did that really well and on the back of that I think, just as an example, there’s more of an appetite now for things that aren’t Coronation Street.”

Higson’s Jekyll & Hyde is a twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Victorian tale. Set in the 1930s, it’s a fantasy action/adventure that makes the original Dr Jekyll’s grandson its anti-hero, and boasts sumptuous sets and plenty of slow-mo supernatural drama.

But will Jekyll give TV’s most famous Doctor a run for his money?

“No, we want it just to be a little show that no one watches,” Higson joked. “Obviously, Doctor Who has cast a huge shadow over everything. We don’t have many shows of that nature so it has to carry the whole weight of that sci-fi, action, fantasy thing. We’ve made other things like Merlin that have come through, I suppose, and done a bit of that territory but yeah, you know, you can’t get away from that.

“It’s been a fantastic institution and it’s great the way it’s been reinvented over the years. I love Doctor Who.”

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Jekyll and Hyde debuts on ITV this October


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